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Posts Tagged ‘BUREAUCRACIES’

THE FIRST RULE OF BUREAUCRACIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm

After spending years of his life sexually abusing boys entrusted into his care, Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life as a prison inmate.

On October 9, 2012, a Pennsylvania judge sentenced the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach to at least 30 years in prison.  And he may spend as many as 60 years behind bars.

Following his conviction on June 22, 2012, he had faced a maximum of 400 years’ imprisonment for his sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period.

Jerry Sandusky (middle) in police custody

After the sentencing decision was announced, Penn State University President Rodney Erickson released a statement:

“Our thoughts today, as they have been for the last year, go out to the victims of Jerry Sandusky’s abuse.

“While today’s sentence cannot erase what has happened, hopefully it will provide comfort to those affected by these horrible events and help them continue down the road to recovery.”

No doubt Erickson–and the rest of Penn State–waned to move on from this shameful page in the university’s history. And the university desperately tried to sweep the sordid scandal out of sight of the ticket-paying public–-and of history.

Among the steps it took:

  • Firing Joe Paterno, the legendary head football coach who had led Penn State to a staggering 112 victories;
  • Ousting Graham Spanier, the university’s longtime president; and
  • Removing the iconic statue of Paterno–long held in worshipful esteem by almost everyone at the football-obsessed institution.

So what remains to be learned from this sordid affair?

A great deal, it turns out.

To begin at the beginning:

In 2002, assistant coach Mike McQueary, then a Penn State graduate assistant, walked in on Sandusky anally raping a 10-year-old boy. The next day, McQueary reported the incident to head coach Joe Paterno.

“You did what you had to do,” said Paterno. “It is my job now to figure out what we want to do.”

Joe Paterno

Paterno’s idea of “what we want to do” consisted of reporting the incident to three other top Penn State officials:

Their idea of “what we want to do” was to close ranks around Sandusky and engage in a diabolical “code of silence.”

As former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh summed up in an internal investigative report compiled at the request of Penn State and released on July 12, 2012:

“Four of the most powerful people at the Pennsylvania State University–-President Graham B. Spanier, Senior Vice President-Finance and Business Gary C. Schultz, Athletic Director Timothy M. Curley and Head Football Coach Joseph V. Paterno–-failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.

“These men concealed Sandusky’s activities from the board of trustees, the university community and authorities.

Louis Freeh

Louis J. Freeh

“They exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky’s victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being, especially by not attempting to determine the identity of the child who Sandusky assaulted in the Lasch Building in 2001.

“… In order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at the University….repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the University’s Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.

“The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity is the most significant, but not the only, cause for this failure to protect child victims and report to authorities.”

If there is a fundamental truth to be learned from this sordid affair, it is this:

The first rule of any and every bureaucracy is: Above all else, the institution must be protected.

And this holds true:

  • At the level of local / state / Federal government;
  • For-profit organizations;
  • Non-profit organizations; or
  • Religious institutions

During the 48-year reign of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, agents had their own version of this: Do not embarrass the Bureau.

Those who did were fired ot shipped to Hoover’s version of Siberia: A posting in remote Butte, Montana.

Within the Catholic Church, countless Catholic priests abusing young boys entrusted to their protection were repeatedly protected by their high-ranking superiors.

In private industry, whistleblowers who report rampant safety violations in nuclear power plants are often ignored by the very regulatory agencies the public counts on to prevent catastrophic accidents.

Imperfect institutions staffed by perfect men obsessed with power, money and fame–-and fearful of losing one or all of these–-can never be expected to act otherwise.

And those who do expect ordinary mortals to behave like extraordinary saints will be forever disappointed.

So how can we at least minimize such outrages in the future?

“Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom,” warned Thomas Jefferson.  And it remains as true today as it did more than 200 years ago.

Add to this the more recent adage: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

The more we know about how our institutions actually work–-as opposed to how they want us to believe they work–-the more chance we have to control their behavior.

And to check their abuses when they occur.

Which they will.

“YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on December 16, 2014 at 12:00 am

So you’ve spent the last half-hour or more on the phone, listening to one recorded message after another (and probably a symphony of bad music).

And you’re no closer to solving the problem that caused you to phone the company/agency in the first place.

What to do?

  • Go on the Net and look up the company’s/agency’s website.  Look for links to their Board of Directors.  Often enough you’ll get not only their names but their bios, phone numbers and even email addresses.
  • Start looking at the bottom of the website page.  Many companies/agencies put this information there–and usually in small print.
  • Look for the names of officials who can help you.  That means the ones at the top of the  company–or at least high enough so you can be sure that whoever responds to your call, letter and/or email has the necessary clout to address your problem.
  • If you call, don’t ask to speak directly with Mr. Big–that’s not going to happen.  Ask to speak with Mr. Big’s secretary, who is far more accessible.
  • Keep your tone civil, and try to make your call as brief as possible.  Don’t go into a lot of background about all the problems you’ve been having getting through to someone.
  • Give the gist and ask for a referral to someone who can help resolve your problem.
  • If the secretary needs more time to study the problem before referring you to someone else, be patient.  Answer any questions asked–such as your name, address, phone number and/or email.
  • State–specifically–what you want the company to do to resolve your problem.  If you want a refund or repairs for your product, say so.
  • Too many consumers don’t specify what they want the company to do–they’re so caught up in their rage and frustration that this completely escapes them. 
  • Be reasonable.  If you want a refund, then don’t ask for more money than you paid for the product.  If you want to return a product for an exchange, don’t expect the company to give you a new one with even more bells and whistles–unless you’re willing to pay the difference in price.
  • If you want an agency to investigate your complaint, don’t expect them to drop everything else and do so instantly.  Give them time to assess your information and that supplied by others.
  • It’s usually possible to get one agency to sit on another–if you can make a convincing case that it’s in that secondary agency’s best interests to do so.
  • For example: If you’ve been roughed up by local police for no good reason, you can file a complaint with that department–-and the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office (federal prosecutor) to investigate.
  • That doesn’t guarantee they will resolve your problem.  But if you can show that the cops have violated several Federal civil rights laws, the odds are that someone will take a serious look at your complaint.
  • If a company/agency official has acted so outrageously that the company/agency might now be held liable for his actions, don’t be afraid to say so.
  • But don’t threaten to sue.  Just point out that the employee has acted in such a way as to jeopardize the company’s/agency’s profits and/or reputation for integrity/efficiency.  Make it clear that the organization is not well-served by such behavior.
  • Don’t try to win sympathy for yourself.  An agency/company doesn’t care about you.  It cares only about its profits and/or reputation.  So if you got a raw deal, but don’t have the means to threaten either, its top executives won’t lift a finger to help you.
  • If you can make it clear that the profits and/or reputation of the agency/business have been compromised by the actions of its employee(s), your letter/email will instantly catch the attention of Mr. Big.  Or one of Mr. Big’s assistants–who will likely take quick action to head off a lawsuit and/or bad publicity by trying to satisfy your request.
  • Give the CEO’s secretary at least one to two days to get back to you.  Remember: Resolving your problem isn’t the only task she needs to complete.
  • If you’re writing the CEO, make sure you use his full name and title–and that you spell both correctly. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego. Nothing will turn him off faster than your failing to get his name and title exactly right.
  • As in the case with his secretary, be brief–no more than a page and a half.  Outline the problem you’re having and at least some (though not necessarily all) of the steps you’re taken to get it resolved.
  • Then state what you want the company to do.  Again, be fair and reasonable.
  • If your main problem is simply getting through the phone system of the business, point out that most customers won’t put up with such rudeness and inefficiency. They will take their business elsewhere.

“YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help, Social commentary on December 14, 2014 at 9:08 pm

How many times have you called a government agency or company and instantly found yourself put on hold?

To add insult to injury, you usually wind up serenaded by recorded music that would be totally forgettable if it weren’t so unforgivably irritating.

And every 30 seconds or so a recorded voice comes on to assure you: “Your call is very important to us.”

Have you ever wondered:If my call is so important to you, why aren’t you answering it? 

The truth is that most companies and government agencies don’t want their employees speaking with the customers who make their existence a reality.

Having your questions answered by another human being requires the company/agency to assign–and pay–people to do just that.

Most hiring managers don’t want to hire any more people than they absolutely have to.  Assigning people to answer customers’ calls means that many of those calls will take time to answer, because some problems can’t be solved in a matter of seconds.

This is especially true when the problem involves technology.

(Technical support employees of computer/software companies are notorious for advising customers to “just put the Restore Disk back into your computer and restore it back to default.”

This wipes out your problem–and everything you’ve saved on your computer.  It also gets you off the phone quickly with Tech Support.)

To a bean-counting executive, time is money.  And that’s money that won’t be going into the pockets of some already overpaid CEO.

Even government agencies like police departments don’t want to spend any more time than necessary taking the calls of those who need to reach them.

Even calls to 911 can leave you talking to no one, with only a recorded message telling you to wait until someone deigns to speak with you.

That’s why many bureaucracies arrange that when you call for help, you’re fobbed off with a recorded message telling you to visit the company’s or agency’s website.

This assumes, of course, that

  1. You have a computer;
  2. If you do, you also have Internet access; and
  3. All the answers to life’s problems–including yours–can be found on that website.

If you

  • Don’t have a computer;
  • You have a computer but don’t have Internet access;
  • You do have Internet access but the service is down;
  • Can’t find the solution to your problem on the agency/company website

you’re flat out of luck.

And the agency/company couldn’t care less.

But it need not be this way.

Companies and agencies can treat their customers with respect for their time and need for help.

That’s why companies that genuinely seek to address the questions and concerns of their customers reap strong customer loyalty–and the profits that go with it.

One of these is LG, which produces mobile phones, TVs, audio/video appliances and computer products.

LG actually offers an 800 Customer Care number that’s good 24-hours a day.

Its call center is staffed with friendly, knowledgeable people who are willing to take the time to answer customer questions and guide them through the steps of setting up the appliances they’ve bought.

Another company that dares to have human beings stand behind its products–and explain how to use them–is The Sharper Image.

Recently, Dave, a friend of mine, bought an electronic alarm clock that allows you to wake up to a variety of exotic sounds–such as a thunderstorm, the seashore, chirping birds or foghorns.

A brochure on how to set the alarm and sounds came with the clock, but Dave couldn’t make sense of it.  Luckily, there was an 800 number given in the brochure for those who needed to be walked through the necessary steps.

Dave called The Sharper Image and quickly found himself connected with a friendly and knowledgeable customer care rep.  She clearly and patiently explained what he needed to do to choose which sounds he wanted to awaken to.

And then she just as patiently repeated that list of steps while he quickly typed them up for future use if he forgot what to do.

Such an approach to customer service is not new–just extremely rare these days.

In his 1970 bestselling primer on business management, Up the Organization, Robert Townsend offered the following advice to company CEOs: “Call yourself up.”

“When you’re off on a business trip or a vacation,” writes Townsend, “pretend you’re a customer.  Telephone some part of your organization and ask for help.  You’ll run into real horror shows.

“Don’t blow up and ask for name, rank and serial number–you’re trying to correct, not punish.  Just suggest to the manager (through channels, dummy) that he make a few test calls himself.”

So how do you cope with agencies/companies that don’t care enough to help their customers?

I’ll address that in my next column.

YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help on November 6, 2013 at 12:56 am

So you’ve spent the last half-hour or more on the phone, listening to one recorded message after another (and probably a symphony of bad music).

And you’re no closer to solving the problem that caused you to phone the company/agency in the first place.

What to do?

  1. Go on the Internet and look up the company’s/agency’s website.  Look for links to their Board of Directors.  Often enough you’ll get not only their names but their bios, phone numbers and even email addresses.
  2. Start looking at the bottom of the website page.  Many companies/agencies put this information there–and usually in small print.
  3. Look for the names of officials who can help you.  That means the ones at the top–or at least high enough so you can be sure that whoever responds to your call/letter/email has the necessary clout to address your problem.
  4. If you call, don’t ask to speak directly with Mr. Big–that’s not going to happen.  Ask to speak with Mr. Big’s secretary, who is far more accessible.
  5. Keep your tone civil, and try to make your call as brief as possible.  Don’t go into a lot of background about all the problems you’ve been having getting through to someone.
  6. Give the gist and ask for a referral to someone who can help resolve your problem.
  7. If the secretary needs more time to study the problem before referring you to someone else, be patient.  Answer any questions asked–such as your name, address, phone number and/or email.
  8. State–specifically–what you want the company to do to resolve your problem.  If you want a refund or repairs for your product, say so.
  9. Too many consumers don’t specify what they want the company to do–they’re so caught up in their rage and frustration that this completely escapes them. 
  10. Be reasonable.  If you want a refund, then don’t ask for more money than you paid for the product.  If you want to return a product for an exchange, don’t expect the company to give you a new one with even more bells and whistles–unless you’re willing to pay the difference in price.
  11. If you want an agency to investigate your complaint, don’t expect them to drop everything else and do so instantly.  Give them time to assess your information and that supplied by others.
  12. It’s usually possible to get one agency to sit on another–if you can make a convincing case that it’s in that secondary agency’s best interests to do so.  If you’ve been roughed up by local police for no good reason, you can file a complaint with that department–-and the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office (federal prosecutor) to investigate.
  13. That doesn’t guarantee they will resolve your problem.  But if you can show that the cops have violated several Federal civil rights laws, the odds are that someone will take a serious look at your complaint.
  14. If a company/agency official has acted so outrageously that the company/agency might now be held liable for his actions, don’t be afraid to say so.  But don’t threaten to sue.  Just point out that the employee has acted in such a way as to jeopardize the company’s/agency’s reputation for integrity/efficiency and that the organization is not well-served by such behavior.
  15. Whoever reads your letter/email will instantly realize the legal implications of what you’re saying–and, in most cases, will take quick action to head off a lawsuit by trying to satisfy your request.  The foremost priority of every bureaucracy is to ensure its own survival.
  16. Give the CEO’s secretary at least one to two days to get back to you.  Remember: Resolving your problem isn’t the only task she needs to complete.
  17. If you’re writing the CEO, make sure you use his full name and title–and that you spell both correctly. People don’t get to be CEOs without a huge sense of ego.  Nothing will turn him off faster than your failing to get his name and title exactly right.
  18. As in the case with his secretary, be brief–no more than a page and a half.  Outline the problem you’re having and at least some (though not necessarily all) of the steps you’re taken to get it resolved.
  19. Then state what you want the company to do.  Again, be fair and reasonable.

YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Self-Help on November 5, 2013 at 1:15 am

How many times have you called a government agency or company and instantly found yourself put on hold?

To add insult to injury, you usually wind up serenaded by recorded music that would be totally forgettable if it weren’t so unforgivably irritating.

And every 30 seconds or so a recorded voice comes on to assure you: “Your call is very important to us.”

Have you ever wondered:If my call is so important to you, why aren’t you answering it? 

The truth is that most companies and government agencies don’t want their employees speaking with the customers who make their existence a reality.

Having your questions answered by another human being requires the company/agency to assign–and pay–people to do just that.

Most hiring managers don’t want to hire any more people than they absolutely have to.  They want to siphon off as much of the company’s profits for themselves as possible.

And assigning people to answer customers’ calls means that many of those calls will take time to answer, because some problems can’t be solved in a matter of seconds.  To a bean-counting executive, time is money.

Even government agencies like police departments don’t want to spend any more time than necessary taking the calls of those who need to reach them.

Even calls to 911 can leave you talking to no one, with only a recorded message telling you to wait until someone deigns to speak with you.

That’s why many bureaucracies arrange that when you call for help, you’re fobbed off with a recorded message telling you to visit the company’s or agency’s website.

This assumes, of course, that

  1. You have a computer; and
  2. If you do, you also have Internet access.

If you

  • Don’t have a computer; or
  • You have a computer but don’t have Internet access; or
  • You do have Internet access but the service is down,

you’re flat out of luck.

And the agency/company couldn’t care less.

But it need not be this way.

Companies and agencies can treat their customers with respect for their time and need for help.

That’s why companies that genuinely seek to address the questions and concerns of their customers reap strong customer loyalty–and the profits that go with it.

One of these is LG, which produces mobile phones, TVs, audio/video appliances and computer products.

LG actually offers an 800 Customer Care number that’s good 24-hours a day.

Its call center is staffed with friendly, knowledgeable people who are willing to take the time to answer customer questions and guide them through the steps of setting up the appliances they’ve bought.

Another company that dares to have human beings stand behind its products–and explain how to use them–is The Sharper Image.

Recently, Dave, a friend of mine, bought an electronic alarm clock that allows you to wake up to a variety of exotic souds–such as a thunderstorm, the seashore, chirping birds or foghorns.

A brochure on how to set the alarm and sounds came with the clock, but Dave couldn’t make sense of it.  Luckily, there was an 800 number given in the brochure for those who needed to be walked through the necessary steps.

Dave called The Sharper Image and quickly found himself connected with a friendly and knowledgeable customer care rep.  She clearly and patiently explained what he needed to do to choose which sounds he wanted to awaken to.

And then she just as patiently repeated that list of steps while he quickly typed them up for future use if he forgot what to do.

Such an approach to customer service is not new–just extremely rare these days.

In his 1970 bestselling primer on business management, Up the Organization, Robert Townsend offered the following advice to company CEOs: “Call yourself up.”

“When you’re off on a business trip or a vacation,” writes Townsend, “pretend you’re a customer.  Telephone some part of your organization and ask for help.  You’ll run into real horror shows.

“Don’t blow up and ask for name, rank and serial number–you’re trying to correct, not punish.  Just suggest to the manager (through channels, dummy) that he make a few test calls himself.”

So how do you cope with agencies/companies that don’t care enough to help their customers?

I’ll address that in my next column.

HOW TO BE A SMARTER EXECUTIVE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Self-Help on May 14, 2013 at 12:00 am

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

–Ecclesiastes 9:11

It is one thing to gain executive power, and another to hold onto it.  It is altogether different to use it wisely and justly.

Many are the dictators who have ruled long, but not justly–such as Porfiro Diaz, whose 30-year regime was ended by the Mexican Revolution in 1911.

And many are those who wanted to rule justly but could not face up to the harsh realities of power.  One of these was Francisco Madero, who democratically succeeded Diaz–but was soon betrayed and executed by Victoriana Huerta, one of his own generals.

In Part One, I outlined a number of timeless suggestions by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman and patriot (1469-1527) for attaining and wisely employing executive power.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Many of this nation’s corporate executives and officials manning local, state and Federal agencies (including the Presidency) would do well to pay close attention to his advisories.  Among these:

  • EVALUATING A SUBORDINATE: For a prince to be able to know a minister there is this method which never fails.  When you see the minister think more of himself than of you, and in all his actions seek his own profit, such a man will never be a good minister, and you can never rely on him.  For whoever has in hand the state of another man must never think of himself but of the prince, and not mind anything but what relates to him.
  • TREATMENT OF SUBORDINATES: And on the other hand, the prince, in order to retain his fidelity, ought to think of his minister, honoring and enriching him, doing him kindnesses and conferring on him favors and responsible tasks, so that the great favors and riches bestowed on him cause him not to desire other honors and riches, and the offices he holds make him fearful of changes.  When princes and their ministers stand in this relation to each other, they can rely the one upon the other; when it is otherwise, the result is always injurious either for one or the other of them.
  • TAKING COUNSEL: There is no way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth.  But when every one can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.
  • A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his counsel wise men, and giving them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • MAKING DECISIONS: But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels and with each of these men comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.  Beyond these he should listen to no one, go about the matter deliberately, and be determined in his decisions.
  • SEEK THE TRUTH:  A prince, therefore, ought always to take counsel, but only when he wishes, not when others wish.  On the contrary, he ought to discourage absolutely attempts to advise him unless he asks it.  But he ought to be a great asker, and a patient hearer of the truth about those things of which he has inquired.  Indeed, if he finds that anyone has scruples in telling him the truth he should be angry.
  • UNWISE PRINCES CANNOT BE WISELY ADVISED: And since some think that a prince who gains the reputation of being prudent is so considered, not by his nature but by the good counselors he has about him, they are undoubtedly deceived.  It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.
  • FORTUNE: I think it may be true that fortune is the ruler of half our actions, but that she allows the other half or thereabouts to be governed by us.
  • I would compare her to an impetuous river that, when turbulent, inundates the plains, casts down trees and buildings, removes earth from this side and places it on the other; every one flees before it, and everything yields to its fury without being able to oppose it.
  • Still, when it is quiet, men can make provisions against it by dykes and banks, so that when it follows it will either go into a canal or its rush will not be so wild and dangerous.

YOU GET WHAT YOU CHEER FOR

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on September 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Texas Governor Rick Perry is shocked–shocked!–that his Tea Party supporters would openly cheer the notion of society’s allowing an uninsured patient to die.

Just that happened during the September 12 GOP Presidential debate in Tampa, Florida.

“What do you tell a guy who is sick, goes into a coma and doesn’t have health insurance? Who pays for his coverage?” CNN Correspondent Wolf Blitzer asked Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas).

When Paul fumbled for an answer, Blitzer persisted: “Are you saying society should just let him die?”

“Yeah!” several members of the right-wing crowd yelled out.

Hoping to counter negative reaction to the sudden unmasking of his supporters’ bloodthirstiness, Perry later claimed: “I was a bit taken aback by that myself.  We’re the party of life. We ought to be coming up with ways to save lives.”

He shouldn’t have been surprised.  Perry had heard the blood-lust of his supporters just five days earlier, during the September 7 GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

“Your state has executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times,” said the debate’s moderater, NBC’s Brian Williams.

Suddenly, the right-wing audience broke into cheers and applause, interrupting Williams’ question.

“Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?” asked Williams.

“No, sir, I’ve never struggled with that at all,” answered Perry.

“In the state of Texas, ” Perry continued, “if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is you will be executed.”

The audience again cheered at Perry’s mention of “the ultimate justice.”

So add it up:

  • Perry’s Tea Party supporters cheer at the thought of 234 men and women executed by the State. 
  • Perry utterly rejects the possibility that “any one of those might have been innocent” to more Tea Party cheers.
  • Perry’s Tea Party supporters cheer at the thought of letting an uninsured patient die rather than save his life through public-funded coverage.

Is it possible to imagine that Perry’s supporters would cheer:

  • For the right of a raped woman to abort the fetus of her rapist?
  • For the right of an impoverished defendant to have a publicly-funded attorney?
  • For the right of same-sex couples to marry?

Hardly.

The crowds attending the rallies of Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew knew what they were cheering for. 

They relished the slanders of “Communist!” and “traitor!” hurled at every Democratic opponent–including decorated veterans.

Perry’s supporters knew what they cared about when they burst into applause at both GOP debates. 

They exulted in the executions of 234 men and women in a state infamous for its failure to protect the most basic rights of its accused citizens.

And they exulted at the prospect of leaving millions of uninsured Americans to die because they couldn’t afford the costly insurance premiums of wealthy patients.

And for all of Perry’s claims that Republicans “are the party of life,” it’s well to look closely at the realities of medicine for ordinary Texans under the 11-year Governorship of Rick Perry.

In fact, the Los Angeles Times recently did just that.  Among the findings:

  • More than a quarter of Texans lack health insurance, the highest rate in the nation.
  • Those costs are passed to the insured. Insurance premiums have risen more quickly in Texas than they have nationally over the last seven years.
  • Nearly a third of the state’s children did not receive an annual physical and a teeth cleaning in 2007.
  • Over the last decade, infant mortality rates have risen in Texas while declining nationwide.
  • One in five seniors, despite guaranteed Medicare coverage, ends up back in the hospital within a month of being released.
  • Texas has among the fewest physicians per capita in the country, according to census data.
  • This year, the governor and state Legislature slashed funding to train physicians to less than half of what it was a decade ago.
  • That came atop $800 million in cuts to hospitals and other medical providers that serve poor children, pregnant women and others who rely on Medicaid.

To understand what the United States would look like under President Rick Perry, it’s only necessary to:

  • Discover the true goals championed by Perry and his followers; and
  • Contrast his official claims of intent and performance with the realities of life for most Texans.

The result will be both startling and dismaying.

TREASON AND ITS BUREAUCRATIC PROMOTERS – PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 10, 2011 at 3:50 pm

For more than a half-century, the bureaucrats of the Republican Party have accused their Democratic opponents of treason to gain and retain political power in America. And it has proven a potent, vote-getting weapon.

On March 9, 1954, Edward R. Murrow, the most respected broadcast journalist in America, assailed the “smear-and-fear” tactics of Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The forum was Murrow’s highly-rated documentary series, “See It Now.” The truth of Murrow’s remarks has outlasted the briefness of that 30-minute program.

They could have been applied to the “lie and deny” methods of the Presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

And to the Red-baiting attacks made by Republicans against President Bill Clinton.

And to the ongoing character assaults made by right-wingers against President Barack Obama.

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty,” warned Murrow in that broadcast. “We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men–not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular….

“We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities….

“We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home….

“Cassius was right. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'”

Fast forward 57 years, to April 27, 2011. Murrow has been dead since 1965. Yet an echo of his words hung in the air as President Barack Obama addressed a hastily-called press conference.

The reason: To release the long-form of his Hawaiian birth certificate–and to hopefully lay to rest the Republican slander that he was not an American citizen, thus making him ineligible to hold office as President.

“I know that there is going to be a segment of people for which no matter what we put out, this issue will not be put to rest,” Obama said. “But I am speaking for the vast majority of the American people as well as for the press.

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness. We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.”

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other … if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.”

Chief among the “carnival barkers” Obama was referring to was Donald Trump, the endlessly self-promoting business tycoon.

Declaring himself a possible candidate for President in 2012, Trump had latched onto the “birther” issue as a guaranteed way to capture the attention–and votes–of the radical right.

For everyone but the most extremist right-wingers, Obama’s dramatic performance laid to rest the “birther” issue.

But the President had another–and far more important–surprise to unveil: His answer to those rightists who accused him of being a secret Muslim, intent on “selling out” America’s security to his Islamic “masters.”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

For the moment, most of the slander-peddlers in the Republican Party bureaucracy fell silent. This was especially after Obama announced the death of Bin Laden.

Still, the legacy of hate and fear-mongering goes on. There is a good reason for this: Republicans have found, repeatedly, that attacking the patriotism of their opponents is an effective vote-getter.

• It hurtled Dwight Eisenhower into the White House and Republicans into Congress in 1952 and 1956 and
• elected Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972 .
• It gave control of the White House to Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and
• gave it to George H.W. Bush in 1988.
• And even though Bill Clinton won the Presidency in 1992, it gave Republicans control of the Congress in 1994.
• It gave them the White House to George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
• It gave control of the House to Republicans in 2010, thus undermining the financial and healthcare reforms planned by Obama.

And, coming this July, the bureaucracy of the Republican Party will expand its “Treason!” accusation even further. No longer will only Democratic candidates for office and their supporters be targets for such slander.

Now the victims will include the tens of thousands of police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans on 9/11.

They will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list. Any of the responders who are notcompared to the database of suspected terrorists will be barred from getting treatment for their numerous, worsening ailments.

It’s a “gift” that comes to them courtesy of Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and the Republican Party.

In 2010, Congress passed the Democratically-sponsored James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law to address those ailments.

But to win passage of the legislation, Democrats were forced to accept an amendment that deliberately casts a slur on the men and women who had answered their country’s call in its supreme moment of agony.

Thus, self-righteous right-wing legislators, who never lifted a beam from a trapped 9/11 survivor or inhaled toxic fumes that spewed from the crater that was once the World Trade Center, will be standing in judgment over those who did.

TREASON AND ITS BUREAUCRATIC PROMOTERS – PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on May 10, 2011 at 11:28 am

The tens of thousands of police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans on 9/11 have an unexpected–and undeserved–surprise coming.

They will soon be informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s terrorism watch list.

Any of the responders who are not compared to the database of suspected terrorists will be barred from getting treatment for their numerous, worsening ailments.

It’s a “gift” that comes to them courtesy of Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and the bureaucracy of the Republican Party.

In 2010, Congress passed the Democratically-sponsored James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Law to address those ailments.

But to win passage of the legislation, Democrats were forced to accept an amendment that deliberately casts a slur on the men and women who had answered their country’s call in its supreme moment of agony.

Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, has informed medical providers and administrators that they should begin letting patients know before the new program kicks in this July.

Specifically, patients seeking help under 9/11 treatment and monitoring programs will be told that their names, birthplaces, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data will be provided to the FBI to ensure they are not terrorists.

Howard’s instructions to medical providers include a sample letter to responders designed to minimize alarm.

“Although neither we nor [the Centers for Disease Control]/NIOSH anticipate the name of any individual in the current Programs will be on the list, CDC/NIOSH is expressly required by law to implement this particular requirement of the Act.

“Thank you for your understanding. We look forward to working with you and ensuring that you continue to receive uninterrupted services under the new WTC Health Program,” it concludes.

This is not the first time Republicans have slandered the patriotism their fellow Americans to gain and retain political power.

Since the end of World War 11, Republicans have regularly hurled the charge of “treason” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-sponsored thoughts.

Republicans–who had been locked out of the White House from 1933 to 1952–found that attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans highly effective in winning elections.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence. On February 9, 1950, he claimed, for example: “The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

After four years of such frenzied attacks on Congress, the State Department and respected journalists such as Edward R. Murrow, McCarthy finally overstepped himself. He accused the United States Army of being an active hotbed for Communists.

The result were the Army-McCarthy hearings, where McCarthy’s credibility was forever destroyed. He was finally censured by his fellow Senators and disappeared into anonymity, alcoholism and death in 1957.

The fact that McCarthy never uncovered one actual case of treason was conveniently overlooked during his lifetime. And today, right-wing columnists like Ann Coulter try to rehabilitate his memory–just as right-wingers in Russia still try to rehabilitate the memory of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Nevertheless, the success of McCarthy’s treason-charged rhetoric proved too heady for other Republicans to resist. Among those who have hurled similar charges–and greatly profited from them–are:

• President Richard Nixon
• His vice president, Spiro Agnew
• Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
• Former Congressman Dick Armey
• President George W. Bush
• Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin
• Congresswoman Michelle Bachman
• Rush Limbaugh
• Glen Beck
• Sean Hannity
• Bill O’Reilly.

The election of Barack Obama pushed the “treason chorus” to new heights of infamy. With no political scandal (such as Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky) to fasten on, the bureaucracy of the Republican Party deliberately promoted the slander that Obama was not an American citizen.

The natural conclusion from this could only be that he was an illegitimate President, and should be removed from office.

Republican bureaucrats also claimed–sometimes openly, sometimes in secret–that Obama was really a Muslim.

During the 1992 Presidential election, Republicans charged that Bill Clinton was a secret agent of the Communists because, as a student, he had once visited Moscow. During the 2008 Presidential race, Republicans charged that Obama intended to sell out America’s security to his Muslim “masters.”

To the dismay of his enemies, Obama–in the course of a single week–dramatically proved the falsity of both charges.

On April 27, he released the long-form of his Hawaii birth certificate.

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other …if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers,”

And on May 1, he announced the solving of one of those “big problems”: Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had been tracked down and shot dead by elite U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

ATTACKING BLUE SHIELD EXTORTION–PART TWO

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2011 at 7:46 am

On January 5, 2011, the Mafia got a new competitor in the extortion market.

Blue Shield of California announced it would seek cumulative hikes of as much as 59% for tens of thousands of customers March 1.

As a result, 193,000 policyholders would see increases averaging 30% to 35%, the result of three separate rate hikes since October.

Nearly 1 in 4 of the affected customers will see cumulative increases of more than 50% over five months.

Most policyholders received separate notices for the successive rate hikes. But others got the news all at once because they had contracts guaranteeing their rate for a year.

Michael Fraser, a Blue Shield policyholder from San Diego, learned that his monthly bill would climb 59%, to $431 from $271.

Fraser is self-employed–like many who hold individual policies. Others policyholders aren’t covered by employer plans or have been laid off.

The Blue Shield increases triggered complaints to new California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Jones, a former Democratic state assemblyman, said the legislature needed to give his agency legal authority to regulate insurance rates the same way it now does automobile coverage.

At present, the commissioner can block increases only if insurers spend less than 70% of premium income on claims.

But the insurance industry-corrupted legislature seems highly unlikely to grant the Insurance Commissioner such authority to protect consumers.

So: How do consumers protect themselves against such predatory behavior?

They do it by turning to RICO–the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia. Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

“Racketeering activity means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion…; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of Title 18, United States Code…Sections 391-384 (relating to extortionate credit transactions) …section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce; robbery or extortion)…section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….”

How does the behavior of Blue Shield legally qualify as extortion?

By repeatedly jacking up premiums, insurers such as Blue Shield and Anthem are endangering the safety of their customers–by, in effect, threatening to deprive them of their ability to secure medical care for themselves and/or their families.

Would such use of RICO in such circumstances be a new and untested means for redressing injuries? Yes.

But it’s essential to remember that the original law proved a completely new way for combating crime.

Prior to RICO, only those directly involved in committing crimes–such as Mafia hitmen, extortionists and drug-peddlers–could be prosecuted. But their superiors who gave the orders and ruled as kingpins of a criminal network couldn’t legally be touched.

After RICO proved successful in targeting Mafia kingpins, it was applied in cases previously unimagined.

In NOW v. Scheidler, (1994), for example, several parties, including the National Organization for Women, sought damages and an injunction against anti-abortion activists who physically blocked access to abortion clinics.

The Supreme Court held that a RICO enterprise does not need an economic motive, and that the Pro-Life Action Network could therefore qualify as a RICO enterprise.

Taking on the wealthy and well-entrenched insurance industry would be no small thing. But there was once a time when the victims of smoking–and the lawyers who represented them–thought it suicidal to take on the tobacco industry.

The first cases brought against that enterprise failed. But, in time, public opinion changed–and tobacco companies found themselves facing not just private lawsuits but the combined might of Attorneys General throughout the United States.

As a result, the tobacco industry is now on the defensive–and under increasing scrutiny and regulation.

The same can happen with the insurance industry. As Andrew Jackson so fervently believed: “One man with courage makes a majority.”

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